If you’ve ever watched a TV show or movie that featured giant robots, there’s a good chance it was inspired by Gundam in some way.
For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Gundam is a massively popular mecha anime that has spawned countless spin-off shows, toys, and video games. Debuting in 1979 with Mobile Suit Gundam, the series is credited as the father of the “real robot” sub-genre of anime that is prominent in the industry to this day. Whereas shows featuring supernatural “super robots” have been a staple of anime since the 1950s, real robot anime is defined by militarized robots who generally abide by real-world laws and physics amid militaristic battle situations. This genre also targets a slightly older audience with philosophical stories discussing the necessity and severity of war, which is a trait that has defined the Gundam series since its inception.
Truthfully, even if you don’t fancy yourself a fan of anime, you’ve certainly seen the influence of Gundam before. The iconic Wing Gundam has been a source of inspiration in all parts pop culture, including the Herobot 9000 at Mall of America’s Lego Store. Even a character in the Pokemon video games begins battle by shouting “Pokemon fight! Ready, go!” in clear reference to the line “Gundam fight! Ready, go!” Yet more shocking than anything else, Gundam has started to impact real world science as well. Construction on a functioning Gundam robot costing upwards of $1 billion has begun in Japan, and the series’ robot designer Kunio Okawara has begun designing real world electric cars. Considering media has inspired real life products such as 2015’s hoverboard, it’s only natural that a futuristic show like Gundam would inspire technology one day. However, considering the massive scale of some of these projects, its undeniable that Gundam’s impact on culture runs deeper than we could ever imagine.
It’s natural to think the Gundam series is only notable for its giant robots, but its characters and storyline also continue to influence in the most unlikely of ways. Char Aznable may have been the villain of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, but this masked blond rival manages to beat out even the most iconic Gundam heroes in popularity to this day. Char is in fact so popular that the phrase “Char clone” is given to characters in games and anime who exhibit qualities that closely match the character. Even the character Amon from The Legend of Korra has been recognized as as a Char clone by fans of both shows. Other tropes made popular by Gundam include the “Bright Slap,” which involves literally slapping a panicked character back to their senses, and the Minovsky Physics which, while fictional, serve as underlying laws in the Gundam universe which rationalize its more supernatural elements without resorting to magic or wizards.
To date, the Gundam franchise has spawned more than 15 TV series, some of which have lasted for over 50 episodes. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is still airing to this day, and the Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs-Force video game managed to top sales charts in Japan at the end of 2015. Even though the series is over 35 years old, its continued popularity and impact manages to dazzle new and old fans of the series alike. Whether we’ll one day navigate space in real life mobile-suit robots remains to be seen, but at least we can continue to enjoy the excellent TV shows and toys they inspire in the comfort of our terrestrial homes.
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